IGF 2009

2009 IGF Egypt Survey
What might be the biggest surprise 20 years from now?

Imagining the Internet conducted a video survey of IGF-Egypt participants, recording formal interviews with 43 people who were willing to take credit for their responses to five questions. The convenience sample of responses to the question “Twenty years from now, when people talk about the Internet ‘back at the turn of the century in the early 2000’s,’ and they say ‘the people back then didn’t see this coming’ what will they be referring to – what do you think might surprise most people,” was gathered at random from among the 1,800 or so people attending the 2009 event. Use the video viewer on this page to sample a selection of representative answers to the fourth question asked in the five-question survey.

>Question One: Continuing IGF
>Question Two: Hope for the Internet
>Question Three: Concern for the Internet
>Question Four: 20 years from now
>Question Five: Internet in one word

The written content on this page is a brief sampling of just a few partial quotes from the many responses recorded. To get an accurate representation of all responses in full, watch all of the videos. Each clip is brief, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to less than 2 minutes.

One of the most common responses to the “looking back 20 years from now” question was commentary that played off the idea that the Internet of Things and hyperconnectivity will bring massive changes in the social, political and economic future of the Internet. The advancement of wireless communications on small, powerful, personal devices combined with the digital tagging and inclusion on wired and wireless networks of billions, even trillions of items such as cars, retail products and other objects creates information flows beyond most people's perception.

Max Senges of Google in Berlin said the thing that people will look back 20 years from now and say they didn't see it coming in the 2000s is "the ubiquitousness of the Internet - that it's really with everybody all the time so that everybody has an online presence." He said he expects that people's concept of privacy will be different. "[It] will completely shift because everybody will be much more aware of their presence - what goes into what circles, how they share their data and how they control it and basically have a reputation management and a personality management online."

Henry Owera of Sudan, an ITU Fellow at IGF said, "The Internet shall become the fabric of our daily lives, become part and parcel of our daily lives."

Arnoud van Wijk of the Real-Time Text Task Force said, "I actually see it happening already. The Internet will be everywhere, your political, your social, your education - everything will use Internet, everything will depend on the Internet. Cyberlife will be quite normal. We're already moving toward it."

Rod Beckstrom, CEO of ICANN, said, "There's going to be IP everywhere... whether it's in our badges or in our pockets or in our earpieces, Internet will be connected everywhere. The cost of the electronics is going down." He pointed at the small, high-quality Flip HD video camera being used to record the interview. "Who would have thought that was possible 10 years ago?" he asked. "Imagine having a million of those around us right now. The cost is going to keep falling. So that's going to start changing society because there's going to be incredible transparency. And right now when you go to the Web you're overwhelmed with how much information there is. Imagine there being a billion times that much information... There are just infinite possibilities."

Bruce Schneier, chief security officer for British Telecom, said, "You know it's interesting because anything they say they didn't see coming people will have seen coming. But I think what they're going to look back at and say 'How could you ignore that?' is the problems of data - the problems of pervasive never-erasing, never-disappearing data - and how as society deal with that. It's still to be determined. We don't know. We've never lived in this world before. I think our grandchildren will look back at the decisions we make today and judge us based on how we dealt with data, what we decided to preserve, what we decided to forget, how we instituted privacy, how we forced openness. Internet's about data, and the long-term effects of all this data is something our species has never tried before."

Peng Hwa Ang, director of the Singapore Internet Research Center, said, "I think the thing that people won't expect is the Internet everywhere. It will be really ubiquitous."

Ferry de Kerckhove, Canada's ambassador to Egypt, said, "The whole world will be on real-time, and therefore we will be moving to an entirely different world that I would call 'connected intelligence,' and I think that notion of connected intelligence could - you could imagine things like a totally Java-based world where we will be totally connected as intelligent human beings, and therefore developing solutions to problems where you would have a concentration of various thoughts. But that's really out in the future, but the Internet is the way to move in that direction."

Elina Noor of the Multinational Partnership Against Cyberthreats also mentioned real-time connectivity, saying she thinks the surprise may be "the way the Internet has, in a way, dissolved geographical borders and physical borders, bringing people together in real-time to exchange ideas from all across the world."

Anupam Agrawal, an Internet Society Fellow from India, said, "Since the future is going to be the Internet of Things, I seem to see that IPv10 will be one of the issues."

John Wilbanks of Creative Commons said, "If you would have told me [20 years ago] that we were going to have a global free encyclopedia that was as good as Encyclopedia Britannica that was compiled by entirely by volunteers, I would have thought you were insane. If you told me that we would have free software that ran this global Internet that was built by volunteers, I would have thought you were crazy. Or that my organization would exist and there would be 500 million objects on the Web with our copyright licenses. So by definition the things that surprise us are surprising. My hope is that we look back and we say, 'I can't believe that it wasn't obvious that we needed to have open infrastructure. I can't believe that there was even a debate that we might close off pieces of the network.' Right now it is a question, and so my hope is that the biggest surprise [20 years from now when we think back to the 2000s] is that we're even having this conversation - that it wasn't obvious that it was a human right, that it wasn't obvious that networks needed to be open at their core."

Fouad Bajwa, an IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group member and Internet governance researcher, said, "Maybe their surprise would be something like, why at that stage people didn't understand and were trying to lock down an open space which would create the world of the future; where - in an open environment - everyone would be connected, interconnected; where the Internet would be facilitating life to such an extent that people will not even feel that Internet is something separate; it may be something like the air that we breathe, the infrastructure we use. Maybe it will be just like a very, very, very simple thing."

Interviews were conducted by Andie Diemer, Shelley Russell, Drew Smith and Eugene Daniel, researchers from Elon University's School of Communications, under the supervision of Janna Anderson, associate professor and director of the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon.

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